Well y'all remember I made a piraty crew for our beloved show (Well my beloved show. And as your leader, what I love, YOU will love) Firefly. Crimson Skies has been the only thing that really "fits" the crew, and to go with the band, I made an introductory fiction piece for them.
Let me know what you think! I'm hoping I got the characters pretty good. A few characters missing, but I'll probably make another piece with them. Inara really doesn't set in the Crimson Skies setting as well, however somewhere probably be squirrelled in as a guest appearance.
"Right danged humid Captain," Jayne chewed his cigar as he watched the jungle go past underneath them.
"Just wait Jayne," Malcolm Reynolds leaned against the railing alongside the mercenary, "We're still five hundred feet above the canopy and moving at forty knots. It'll be worse down there."
"Why'd you hafta go and take this job? Have to come all the way down to Brazil. Long haul for what it is," the mercenary tossed his burnt cigar out behind the zeppelin. The aft observation gondola on the Serenity was one of the nicest spots, providing a cool breeze while the bulk of the zeppelin shed the airflow.
"New area. Don't hurt to work new spots, get some contacts, know the region."
"Yeah. And until we figure 'em out, we're steppin' on toes and causin' problems. 'Sides what's in Brazil that ain't in Colorado?"
"I can tell you what it ain't got," Malcolm turned from the railing and back to the doorway, "Snow."
Reynolds entered the skin of the zeppelin and followed the catwalks along it's interior. The Serenity, a Fulcrum class cargo zeppelin, was barer than many of it's peers. It didn't have the large decks often used for broadside cannons, and to cut weight, many of the other walkways and decks weren't there. The upper half of the zeppelin only contained structural support, and walkways to maintain them and take crewmen to the engines or gun turrets.
He paused and looked down at the interior of his zeppelin. His, that was quite a thing in these days. Gave him freedom, a purpose.
"Lookin' mighty philosophical captain," a voice interupted his thoughts from above.
"Kaylee what are you doin' up there?" Mal looked above him to an upper catwalk as the redheaded mechanic shut a door to an engine nacelles.
"Engine number eight wasn't running right, I'm looking it over."
"Well you be careful. We're running right close to French Guinea and I don't trust them snails not to edge over the border a bit. I don't want you out there if'n shooting starts."
"Not to worry captain, Spaulding's up top, keeping an eye out."
Malcolm nodded and continued along the catwalk towards the bridge. Reynolds didn't like traveling this low to the jungle, 500 feet didn't allow them to launch fighters if someone jumped them, however as close as they were flying to the French, he also didn't want to climb to five thousand feet and yell "Here I am!" to every snail fighter in the area.
"How's she going Wash?" Malcolm asked as he stepped on the bridge.
"We're making good time cap'n. Forty knots and we're only about three hours from Macapa. Should be some Skewers from their outer patrols showing up soon. Shouldn't have to worry about any French Privateers."
"That's good. Soon's we unload this bunch of sugar I'll be happy," Reynolds looked around the bridge, "All the instruments are shiny ain't they?"
"Well if they're shiny they work captain," Wash flashed a grin at the captain.
"What's that do?" Reynolds pointed to a knob.
"What's what do?"
"That knob over there, that really dirty one."
"Ah, it doesn't work."
"What does it do?"
"I don't know. If I ever get it working....I'll......find out."
Reynolds raised an eyebrow and quickly left the bridge. He started making his way up to the nose turret and was soon deep in thought. The last several weeks had made him think about expanding the crew. Not that he particularly wanted to, but several problems highlighted themselves.
The first had come after a run in with La Concha Tortuga's. With the zeppelin's four fighters launched, it had left Serenity very vulnerable, with Spaulding manning the zeppelin's nose flak cannon, and their half-insane refugee helping in the loading of it, leaving the tail and belly of the zeppelin exposed.
The second had been when it come time to repair the zeppelin after said fight. Kaylee, along with the entire crew had done admirably in patching up the many bullet holes, and even managed to replace one destroyed engine. However it had required a yard visit with extra hands to repair a broken engine nacelles, which a rocket had ripped loose from the main framing. That extra cost had kept him from replacing Serenity's rear gondola turret, which had been destoyed several months earlier. Not that it mattered, because they didn't have the crew to man it.
The catwalk extended up to the nose of the zeppelin with a pulley near the top. While some of the newer or more expensive zeppelins had mini elevators to feed ammunition to the top gun, this one relied on manual labor. Rarely was the thirty shells for the forward 75MM flak cannon expended, making it a minor inconveniance. But it was another reminder of how short-handed they were.
He opened the hatch and found Zoe leaning on the railing alongside of Spaulding, "Captain," she acknowladged him.
"Cap'n," the mechanic nodded and raised the binoculars to his eyes again.
"Wash says we're a few hours out. We'd best get the Mule loaded up and meet our mark."
The "Mule" was the unofficial nickname for Ford's "AirHorse" Autogyro. Introduced in '33, alongside of the Hoplite, the heavier, slower and unarmed cargo gyro never had reached the popularity of it's security oriented sibling. However it could lift three quarters of a ton easy enough.
"Jeez, Why do we hafta load all this stuff? Ain't this what that fancy crane up above us 'r for?" Jayne grunted as him and Spaulding dropped another barrel of cane sugar in the Autogyro's cargo bay.
"You find a crane that'll roll these barrels inside the Mule and strap it down, and I'll buy it, no matter the cost," Reynolds replied absently.
"Not ta mention we're just delivery men now," Jayne continued grumbling, "Not even doing honest criminal work. We're moving sugar between a couple buyers."
Reynolds rolled his eyes, not bothering to correct his crewman. Better he didn't know. Kept the cargo intact. Jayne knew the real truth he'd have lost drank half the cargo by now.
By the time the last keg of sugar had been loaded, Macapa was only an hour away and the outer patrol of Brazilian Skewer seaplanes had given them the okay to proceed.
"Wash, bring her in over Tallow docks. We'll meet the buyer," Mal radied wash from the Gyro's cockpit.
"You got it cap'n. And try not to get in any trouble this time. After all, in your hands is my sweet wife's beautiful...." he cut off as Mal flipped off the radio. Autogyro hooked onto the launch arm and it slowly pivoted forward until the craft was over Serenity's launch bay. Pulling a lever the autogyro plummeted out of the bay and Spaulding gunned the engine, just barely getting it up to speed before slamming into the thick green canopy.
The pilot grinned as he kept the Mule only several dozen feet above the canopy, bobbing occasionally to go above a taller tree, oblivious to his captain's vicelike grip on his seat. Green rain forest flew by underneath them, reflected strands of water with glimpses of boats peeked through the trees, occasionally clearings with crops or small herd animals.
Soon the forest thinned and scattered villages began passing by and ahead they could see the outskirts of Macapa, one of Brazil's port cities, even if it was almost a hundred miles inland. As they came up to the city Spaulding hugged the edge of the city, hanging far enough out to not alert any of the security autogyro's that frequented the larger businesses and warehouses. Soon enough they got to the more rundown section of the docks, with warehouses that were already crumbling and open planking in the docks.
"Down there," Mal pointed to a cluster of men near a row of warehouses, one of the few sections with new dock planking and the garbage cleared away.
Spaulding landed the gyro on docks just ahead of the pier and the crew got out, Reynolds and Zoe moving towards the buyers while the pilot began unlatching the Gyro's bay door.
The buyer was a nervous, sweaty man, a Norte Americano from the lack of tanned skin and the sweat-stained clothes. The four men that accompanied him appeared to be locals, all armed and looking to be in an unpleasent mood.
"Reynolds?" he asked quickly.
"Yeah, I assume you've got a sweet tooth," Reynolds smiled.
"Eh, yeah, I suppose so. The goods, they're in the autogyro?" the buyer wiped his brow and began walking to their aircraft.
"All intact. The sample that is. We've got the rest on our zep. You tell us where to go and we'll drop it all in your lap."
The man nodded and quickly walked into the autogyro's bay, examining the strapped in barrels, "Paulo." he snapped. One of his men stepped forward and Mal and Zoe nearly drew as the man snapped a small axe from his belt, stepped forward and busted in the top in one smooth blow. The top busted, the sweaty man quickly crammed his arm into the barrel. Rooting around and breaking up globs of crystalized sugar, he withdrew a bottle from inside the barrel.
The amber liquid bobbed in the large jug as he fought the cork out and took a swig. After several large swallows, the man visibly calmed some and let out a deep sigh. He offered the jug to Reynolds, who refused with a shake of his head.
"It's the stuff," the man replied, now almost jovial, "Paulo, Lefty, get back to the ship and tell all hands to ready to load."
The men left and he turned to Reynolds, "Our ship is in the inlet of Saint Gabrielle island. You can pick up the rest th..." he trailed off as he stared behind the two pilots.
"Peter, Peter. I am so disappointed in you," a slick dressed man stepped from the nearest warehouse, surrounded by half a dozen others. Pilots. Damn.
"Eh. Travis. I was about to come see you," "Peter" as the seller was now known began twitching again.
"Did you really think that you and that sweetgrass producer could really send out some rum without my knowladge?" Travis Correia was obviously local, mixed European and Native background, with clothes that had the look of the latest Hollywood fashion, but assembled in a grass hut.
"Eh," was all Peter could come up with. Mal grimaced and groaned inwardly. So that was the sweet transport deal to bring the "sugar" barrels to port. Suposedly it was to avoid the Excise tax that the Brazilian government was putting on the liqour. But of course, being brand new to this region of Brazil Reynolds hadn't known of one other thing. The middle-man. Ninety percent of the world was middle men, and they didn't take too kindly to being cut out.
"Catalina," Reynolds nodded to the woman alongside Travis, "Didn't think you were in the leg-breaker game?"
"I'm not," the woman flashed a big smile. The leader of La Concha Totruga's was in a word, a scorcher. Statuesque, raven hair and a glittering smile. She'd also shot the dickens out of Serenity a mere month ago and lost the zeppelin both gangs had been squabbling over when the local militia showed up, "Travis here was kind enough to give, me everything in this shipment if we just do a little favor for him."
"And by favor....," Reynolds intentionally ignored the semi-well-dressed man standing alongside her, considering that every one of the dozen people standing around them was wearing her band's colors.
"Collect some wayward Rum, eliminating a local smuggler. Don't worry Reynolds, I won't take your beloved zeppelin from you. Just everything inside it," Catalina gave a predatory smile which quickly vanished as Mal heard a "Chink" behind him, "I shoulda known you'd had someone else pilot that here. Landed much to smooth for you."
Mal felt a twinge of anger, as he'd already wondered why he had let the lesser skilled mechanic fly here. Now she was just ticking him off. However the mechanic had been smart enough to keep himself out of sight in the autogyro's hold with the Thompson. That boy just might need a bonus.
"Yeah well. What can I say," his hand edged downwards, taking advantage of the Tortuga's hesitation in the face of full auto firepower, "Look. I think we can work something out. Deal ain't exactly done yet. I'm sure that Peter here," Mal fixed the buyer with a firm glare, "Would be willing to work out something with that nice gentleman there."
"Like he....yeah, I guess so," Peter glared back at Reynolds, but withered under the face of a dozen guns, "I think....SHEEEEIIITT!" and he dove for the deck.
A loud roar made everyone automatically duck as a Curtiss-Wright Warhawk opened up it's throttle a mere hundred yards above the docks. It had come in at high altitude, then coasted down under minimal power, letting the background dock noise conceal the rumble of his throttled down engines.
A burst of .60 caliber shells splintered the deck a scant dozen feet from the Autogyro, and as one both sides opened up with their guns, sending the Tortuga's to the warehouse and it's cover while Reynolds, Zoe and their new partner into the autogyro.
"Zoey, warm her up. Spaulding, help me roll these out," Mal quickly slashed the tie-downs and began tumbling barrels of sugar and rum out of his autogyro.
"What're you doing to my booze!" wailed the buyer.
"Look, we're lightening the load," Mal paused and grabbed him by the collar, "Unless you want out and we can keep some?"
"Lemme help," he squeaked.
Bullets thudded into the autogyro, and Spaulding ducked to the door and held down on the trigger, emptying the fifty round drum in a couple seconds, not hitting diddly, but making the fire drop off. By now the gyro's engines were coming to full power, and it began taxi'ing on the very short dock runway.
"You were cutting it a bit close Jayne," Mal panted as he dropped into the co-pilot's seat by Zoey as the Autogyro shot out over the bay.
"Yeah, yeah," the mercenary pulled the big tri-engine fighter in alongside, "Well, y'all better haul ass. I'm betting them dingy bats already have a couple of fighters on the way."
"Or already," Spaulding called from the back.
"Aw damn," the Ford banked in time to avoid a hail of tracers as the two autogyro's behind them opened up, "They musta already had em in the warehouse. Jayne, a little help."
"No go boss. Got a couple Avengers coming from the north. Not Skewers so they ain't the man," The Warhawk rolled left towards the two incoming dots.
"Zoey, head for the city, maybe the city leaders won't like the intrusion and take these gals down," Mal glanced back behind them. Damn, damn. What he'd give to have his own fighter under his butt.
"Or us," she replied, but banking towards the bustling harbor.
There may have been two gyro's following them, but it was solely in Reynolds favor that they were local manufacture, inferior quality South American copies of reputable designs, not quite as fast, well armed, or agile as the one they were in. However the pilots were pissed off, so that made up the differance somewhat.
The Ford ducked down behind an ocean-going freightor, weaved and whirred back up behind a low-flying tramp zeppelin. The two Tortuga gyros split, one sticking on their tail, the other cutting above the zeppelin and ship, not in a position to blast them, but keep an eye on them.
"Dammit. Why can't we go up against the nitwit brothers now and then?" Spaulding muttered from the back.
Zoe jinked the gyro as a column of waterspouts appeared in front of their windscreen, followed by a much larger splash as a high explosive rocket impacted just a hair forward.
"Attention, un-identified aircraft, this is The Brazilian Provincial Police, stand down and land immediately," the voice came over all bands, as a trio of blue autogyro's appeared from the main airport, "That means everyone. Anyone still flying in ten seconds gets shot down."
"But they started it!" Reynolds slammed the radio back into it's holder then picked it up again, "Zoey, head for the jungle, we gotta hook up with Serenity. Wash, you getting all this?"
"I'm on it boss. Serenity's running full steam heading east. I figure if we can get to Belem, the city fathers there might be a bit kindlier. Y'know, us not shooting up their city and all."
"How many times, I gotta say, we aren't the ones shooting," Mal flinched as a stream of tracers missed the Mule and walked across the water towards a fishing boat, the two men on it diving for the water before the little wodden boat splintered into pieces, "Then again."
Zoe ducked the Ford into a side branch of the main river, zipping around a large island and then into an even small branch of water. Their pursuing gyro missed the turn and peeled around in a long loop, the overhead observer taking over and latching onto their tail.
YEEHAW!" they almost didn't need the radio to hear Jayne's yell as his fighter roared past mere feet in front of them, the triple engine fighter pouring smoke out of the starboard engine, criss-crossing their path from a side-channel.
"What the! UP UP!!" Mal looked out the right side window straight into the nose of the pursuing Grumman Avenger. Intent on it's prey, it opened up with six thirty calibers. The Ford was in the way and the burst ended up stringing down the side of the autogyro. "YEOW!" the buyer screeched as a .30 caliber round grazed him, punching through the cargo area.
Listening to Mal's orders without question Zoey jerked up on the stick, making the autogyro climb up and out of the majority of the burst and the bulk of the fighter. The pursuing gyro wasn't as lucky, the Avenger's right wing slamming into the gyro's tail, sending them both flying, the gyro into the river, while the Grumman curved upward before diving into the jungle.
The remaining pirate autogyro again latched on their tail, pouring short, concentrated bursts into the tail of the Ford. The controls went sluggish and pulling to the right.
"You ready to give up?" a woman's voice came over the radio. Before Mal could answer, Jayne's voice came on the radio.
"Naw, I don't think so. Thanks for clearing up that little exhaust problem I had," Jayne dropped his Warhawk in behind the autogyro. Intent on it's prey until it was too late, he unleased the quad .60 caliber cannons, the massive eight hundred fifty grain rounds shredding the light craft and sending it spinning into a sandy beach on the riverside. The pilot's chuckles were cut short as the voice continued, "That was my best autogyro. Now I don't think I'll let you give up."
"Oh crap," they muttered as one, as a pair of Hughes Devastators dropped in behind them, and the shadows of paired Furies and Avengers appeared above them, skimming the canopy. The mottled gold and black paint scheme giving away the band's identity. A seventh plane, a Fury with an identical paint scheme, but with a coal black fuselage dropped in beside the Mule and Mal caught a glimpse of flowing black hair in the cockpit, "Now. Shall we talk?"